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Vegan bodybuilder proves meat and muscles aren't synonymous
The athlete lectured about the keys to well-balanced vegan and vegetarian diets Wednesday
By: Brent Henzi | Freelance Reporter
Posted: 11/16/07
Contrary to stereotypes, not everyone who is a vegetarian or a vegan is small and scrawny; a plant-based diet is sufficient for creating a strong, muscular body.

Proof of this lies with bodybuilder and vegan Robert Cheeke, who gave a speech at the University on Wednesday night.

As a part of his 2007 "Take Action and Make It Happen" tour, the blond-haired muscle man spoke to an audience of about 20 people in Deady Hall about how people can be vegetarian or vegan and still be athletic and build muscle.

"We can thrive and not just get by," Cheeke said. "The goal should be to feel well and be well. This diet allows you to feel well and also be compassionate for the environment."

A competitive bodybuilder for more than six years now, Cheeke defies the stereotype of what a vegan is supposed to look like.

"It's great to get over the conceptions that vegans are these skinny, weak people," said Sam Whitehill, a student at the University who is also a vegan bodybuilder.

The University's Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals put on the event. SETA co-director and Laura Pizzo, a junior at the University, said the main idea was to spread the message about veganism.

"We wanted to deconstruct any stereotypes about being a vegan and an athlete," Pizzo said. "Like anything, it takes a lot of dedication, but you can be both."

Cheeke explained to the crowd of mostly vegetarians and vegans that it's important to understand that all the nutrition necessary to be a productive athlete, or just a healthy person, can be obtained through plant-based foods.

"I was once proud of eating 18 tofu hot dogs in a day, just trying to eat as much as possible," Cheeke said, referring to his early bodybuilding days. "But all the vitamins, amino acids, protein etc. needed to get stronger can be found in abundance in plant foods. Anything that is a fruit, nut, grain or seed is vegan and there are thousands of those."

During the speech, Cheeke pointed to a system of seven elements that allows for a well-balanced vegan diet. One point that he was adamant about was to eat organic foods, which he feels fits right in with the vegan ideology.

"Organic soil contains more nutrients and is more sustainable," Cheeke said. "Sure, if we think short term it's more expensive, but looking to the future it's very costly not to think organically."

Carrie Freeman, co-director at SETA, agreed that while organic foods are expensive, somewhere down the line, people may face other costs associated with not eating organically grown food.

"Someone is paying the cost down the line, whether it's the farmer, environment or through Medicare," Freeman said. "Most often people don't think of food as political, but it is very political."

Cheeke laid the groundwork for a healthy and balanced diet in his speech. He also gave five tips on becoming a bigger and better vegan athlete. These tips reiterated the title of his tour as well as the idea that it is important to use the knowledge we have.

"We learn something every day, but there is so much that we don't apply," Cheeke said. "If you don't apply what you know then it is wasted. We have the ability to change as long as we take action, otherwise the wheels just spin and we go nowhere."

Near the end of his hour-long speech, Cheeke broadened his topic to more than just eating healthy and rationally. He concluded by challenging the audience to truly care about something, anything.

"I think 99 percent of people don't have passion for something," Cheeke said. "That's fine, but having a passion for something makes life so much better and eventually it comes down to the application of that passion."

For more information on Robert Cheeke and being a healthy, thriving vegetarian or vegan, check out

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